Irish migration was widespread during the 1840’s. This period recorded significant migration of Irish population around the world. The causes of migration were diverse and it included factors such as famine, religion discrimination, high rent rates, evictions and the rising of young Ireland in 1848. The Irish were lured to countries such as United States, England, Australia, Scotland and others for better life and living standards. In United States, they were enticed as a result of invention of gold activities in California.
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Experience of Irish Immigrants in Europe
According to Barrett, majority of Irish migration to Scotland and many parts of continental Europe were poor. Besides, they were made up of mainly Roman Catholics1. The issue of catholic identity in the newly acquired territories provided a far elusive concept. The identity was a result of hostilities of mainstream Scotland society. Catholic identity was a challenge for Irish emigrants in sustaining their stay in the newly acquired territory, because most Scottish populations were not Catholics2. However, a range of reasons were established which facilitated easy mixing and interaction with Scottish society.
Bielenberg explores factors which enhanced co-existence: Education Act, victory of Glasgow Celtic, formation of labor party in 1906, establishment of Irish Free State, re- housing schemes formed in 20thcentury and solidarity fashioned during the 1914-18 war among other factors as affirmed by O’Farrell3. Moreover, during this period, the Scottish and most parts of European society were quickly transforming hence, this dynamic expansion of ”Scottishness” simplified Irish Immigrant and their descendants to be accommodated and retain their Irish catholic identity. This was anchored on diversity.
The Irish protestant encompassed less percentage of migration to Scotland and other parts of the Europe4.Inexorably, the concept of Orangeism, provided a means which Irish Protestant immigrants, exclusively for the lower cadres used to uphold a distinguishing identity acts mammoth in most Irish protestant familiarity. O’Farrell affirms that Orangeism is linked to Irish protestant accomplishments of weaving and coal mining hubs in lowland Scotland. This proposes that a sectarianism inhibited growth and development of trade unions among Lanarkshire coliers5. The orange edict and Irish protestant exerted an overriding effect on Conservative Party of Scotland during the Anti-home Rule movement of 1912 -14.
Irish migration to England was influenced by poverty, diseases and famine among other important factors. O’Farrell explores that to improve their living standards and contribute to effective growth of England economy during the 18th century, Irish undertook work in transport sectors and factories6. These places offered more job opportunities for the Irish immigrants. However, major Irish immigrants in England, were unskilled thus forming larger percentage of manual laborers. The decrease in human labor market formed a negative feeling among the natives of England; this was especially among the English working class7.Consequently, the English population subjected Irish workers to volumes of prejudice; hence affecting the Irish population.
Discrimination was not spared either. Discrimination against Irish religion and anti-Catholic feeling was evident. This did not affect Catholics alone, but also the new immigrants to England. O’Farrell8 states that Irish immigrants concentrated in areas which were poverty stricken, had poor housing and unhygienic conditions. These conditions regularly led to outbreak of diseases such as typhus fever. The social composition of Irish immigrant fuelled prejudice among the English population.
The most susceptible to starvation composed of the poorly paid population who had been devastated by famine back in Ireland. Poverty resulted as a result of potato blight. The social composition of the Middle class Irish settlers distanced themselves from the majority poor hence; this made English population to simplify Irish as weak, impoverished and a liability creating no benefit to the country9.
The Irish Community was linked to criminal activities. Cronin & Adairl notes that about thirty four percent in mid-1850 in police jails, for instance in Wolverhampton, were made up of Irish Immigrant10. The “Irish Rows” in 1840s was a result of Irish and police violence. What contributed to Irish criminal activities was poverty and Irish pub culture. Other reasons included the formation of police forces i.e. London Metropolitan police in 1830. Other major towns were given authority to establish police forces to quell Irish criminal activities and strengthen law and order.
Irish laborers boosted Catholicism in England. For areas, they transformed the basic demographic middle class religious groups to a more predominantly working class society. However, the Protestant groups viewed the entrants of Catholics as a threat to their existence. Hence these led to surfs of anti-papal assaults. According to O’Farrell, the Irish Catholics’ reflections on this assaults on their faith contributed to deepening of allegiance and formation of a strong community11.
Irish Migration to North America
Irish immigration to North America is linked directly to famine. Although life in Ireland was painful and poignant immigrating to North America was not a happy event. It was known as “American Wake” for Irish implicitly said that they will miss Ireland. Those taking the risk knew the condition in Ireland has an endless life of poverty, English repression and diseases. Hence North America provided hope and prospect. O’Farrell affirms that the impression of potato rot experienced in 1845 contributed to steady mass migration to North America12.
The catastrophe eradicated the main subsistence of many peasants, prodding them to the verge of famine. For over five years, the agricultural production stagnated and starvation flounced across Ireland. Untold stories designate that thousands died and few remaining, indigent for hope, endured with no hope but solace in getting away. The only hope was migration13. Famine tormented families for they could not afford paying rent to landlords and thus the steady number of Irish migration in the United States. The Irish loved United States but did not relinquish their Irish loyalty. This is illustrated in their activities and practices. Irish in the United States stayed in communities to enhance brotherhood and solidarity14.
Irish migration to United States faced a lot of experiences. One of the challenges faced was, most of them were unskilled laborers hence they lacked efficiency in newly acquired land. Besides, they had few clothes and money. Lack of education was also a major hindrance surging more challenges of survival in North America. Also, the employers made it hard for the Irish to secure job opportunities. There were signs which read “No Irish Need Apply”. Media outlets such as “Harpers Weekly” cartooned Irish hence, this openly showed that Irish were unwelcomed in the United States15. However, these surprises were not new to Irish; they had faced similar perception in England and had endured centuries of repressions.Consequently, life in North America was of no difference in Ireland.
The Irish immigrants who subsequently settled in the already formed Irish communities formed Catholic churches and recognized their cultural practices. Though poor, Irish emigrant were diverse in cultural resources, they built strong institutions which helped handle adversities without misery. According to O’Farrell, the Irish observed cultural activities such as St. Patrick’s Day; the event has stuck by American society and has remained as a discrete entity holding Irish community in United States 16.The Irish group identity in North America was clearly anchored in culture and bond ship. Although poor, they amassed their strength from culture that detailed their condition and fixed their spiritual resources in embracing hope in mitigating their challenges.
The presence of many Jews, Italians and Slavs influenced Americans to recognize Irish as an important asset hence this impelled their Americanization. The American hostilities shifted from Irish to newly settled immigrants. Besides church practices, the Irish immigrants in the United States strongly embraced the impact of press and stage. Most Irish newspapers and other Media were ingrained with either a religious or nationalistic themes.
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They were either published by church institutions or accrued support from patriotic Irish communities17. Their media construed news, heralded stories, accommodated important information and poems. Consequently, the stage was also a delightful arena since it necessitated no literacy in offering audiences dramas affecting real life situations. By 1800, the initial Irish movement in United States had intervened. However, subsequent Irish generation born and brought up in United States substituted the immigrants though the heritage remained stemmed from Irish peasants and of the challenges striking new beginning in the new world.
Irish Emigrant and Criminal Activities in Australia
The Irish were one of the early settlers in Australia. They contributed largely to development and growth of present-day Australia. O’Farrell suggests that about 6 million Australians are believed to possess Irish genealogy. The Irish migrated to Australia as soldiers, convicts and sailors18. From 1791 – 1867, more than 50,000 Irish crooks were transported to Australia with activities related to crimes, though few were political prisoners as a result of Irish uprisings19. The number of immigrant surged as a result of potato blight resulting in prolonged famine.
Irish Emigration resulted in various consequences which affected the society in their newly acquired territories. One of the negative consequences was surge in crime rate. During the Victorian era, a period linked to Irish migration, criminal activities and disorder was on the rise in Australia and other parts of the world indicates that Irish committed more criminal offences that the natives20. The increased Irish migration during Victorian period especially among the Irish poor established a basic constituent of undesirable activities of Irish cast21.
The migration of the Irish in most parts of the world was a result of various factors. Situations such as famine, unemployment, oppression and exploration played a major part. Perceptions of Irish immigrants to newly found lands were not easy; they were seen as a burden, criminals, poor and mostly religious. However, across North America, Scotland, Australia and other parts of the world, Irish immigrants have contributed to diversity of culture, economic growth and Christianity. All these contributions have continued to shape the present-day world.
Bielenberg, Andy. The Irish Diaspora, London: Longman, 2000.
Cronin, Mike, & Adair, Daryl. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Curtis, Lewis Perry. Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.
O’Farrell, Patrick. The Irish in Australia: 1788 To The Present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000.
- Andy Bielenberg. The Irish Diaspora, London: Longman, 2000,76.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.48.
- Andy Bielenberg. The Irish Diaspora, London: Longman, 2000,p.58.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.59.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.157.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.125.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.97.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.153.
- Perry Curtis Lewis. Apes and angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997,98.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.123.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.124.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.135.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.125.
- Perry Curtis Lewis. Apes and angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997,126.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.146.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.79.
- Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair. The Wearing Of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. New York: Routledge, 2006,p.154.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.103.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.156.
- Andy Bielenberg. The Irish Diaspora, London: Longman, 2000,p.123.
- Patrick O’Farrell. The Irish in Australia: 1788 to the present, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000,p.127.